14th and 15th August 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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With reference to Anti-dumping duty, consider the following statements:

  1. It is a measure to protect domestic industry and act as an instrument to establish fair trade.
  2. Import of cheap products through illegal trade channels like smuggling falls within the purview of dumping.
  3. The use of anti-dumping measure as an instrument of fair competition is permitted by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

a.  3 only

b.  1 and 2 only

c.  1 and 3 only

d.  1, 2 and 3

2)Which of the following is the nodal agency for landslide studies in India?

a.  Geological Survey of India

b.  National Disaster Management Authority

c.  National Institute of Public Finance and Policy

d.  Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council

3)Consider the following statements:

  1. Tiger surveys are usually held once in four years whereas elephants are counted once in five years.
  2. In India, at present number of  elephants is approximately 10 times that of  tigers.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

a.  1 only

b.  2 only

c.  Both 1 and 2

d.  Neither 1 nor 2

Prelims Specific News Items

  1. Analysing decline of the role of Parliament in present context:-

This 75th year of India’s Independence feels like what its first year of freedom may have been like. The pandemic era defined by large-scale loss, lack of adequate state infrastructure and deep economic uncertainty — on the face of it — is reminiscent of the Partition years.

Declining role of Parliament

1) Low functioning

  • In 2020, Parliament sat in session for 33 days.
  • According to PRS Legislative Research (PRS), in the 2021 Monsoon Session, the Lok Sabha was scheduled to work for six hours per day for 19 days.
  • Instead, it sat for 21 hours in total or 21 per cent of what was conceived.
  • Brazil’s Parliament used an application called Infoleg during the pandemic and functioned at higher rates than in pre-pandemic times.
  • The United States Congress met physically for 113 days in 2020. In the year before, they met for 130 days.
  • In the past 10 years, the Rajya Sabha has functioned for less than 25 per cent of its scheduled time.

2) Neglect of the role of Parliamentary Committees

  • According to PRS, none of the 15 bills introduced in this Monsoon Session 2021 has been referred to a Parliamentary Committee.
  • In this current Lok Sabha commencing 2019, only 12 per cent of the bills introduced have been referred to committee.
  • By contrast, the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-2019) had 27 per cent and the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-2014) had 71 per cent of bills referred to standing committees.
  • More significantly, fewer and fewer drafts of key legislation are being debated across the political aisle before becoming law.

3) No discussion of supplementary budget

  • In this Lok Sabha, nine minutes were spent discussing and passing the supplementary budget that included a Rs 15,750 crore Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package.
  • This is the functioning of the legislature — increasingly convened less and debates are few.

Contrast with functioning of Parliament when country faced partition

  •  The drafting of India’s Constitution started in December 1946, when the Constituent Assembly first met, seven months before Independence in August 1947.
  • What makes these years of our constitutional founding so dramatic, was that the backdrop to our founding was as torturous as this pandemic era.
  • As Delhi was slowly filling up with refugees, India’s dual function legislature functioned as Parliament by morning and Constituent Assembly in the afternoon.
  • The first Constituent Assembly was meant to comprise 296 members, but its initial session had only 210 members in attendance.
  •  The assembly faced a boycott by the rest of the members.
  • The Constituent Assembly caucus of the founding Congress Party included many members from outside the party.
  • These members from across the political-ideological spectrum were able to arrive at decisions using a mixture of techniques of problem-solving, persuasion, bargaining and politicking.

Conclusion

The functioning of the Partition era Constituent Assembly is held up as a model of nation-building. Our political class today needs to learn from the makers of our Constitution and stop the declining role of our Parliament today.

2) Govt bans manufacture, sale and use of identified single-use plastic items from July 1, 2022 :-

The government has notified Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, prohibiting identified single-use plastic items by 2022.

ON THICKNESS

The thickness of plastic carry bags will be increased from 50 microns to 75 microns from September 30, 2021, and to 120 microns from December 31, 2022, according to the notification dated August 12. This will also allow the plastic carry bags to be reused, it stated.

Non-woven plastic carry bags should not be less than 60 gram per square metre (GSM) with effect from September 30, 2021

“The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from July 1, 2022: ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration; plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays; wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers,”.

EXTENDED PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY

Extended Producer Responsibility is a policy approach in which producers take responsibility for management of the disposal of products they produce once those products are designated as no longer useful by consumers.

The Centre had earlier asked states and union territories to constitute a special task force under the chief secretary or the administrator for elimination of SUP and effective implementation of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.

3) New museums on J&K, Buddha, freedom struggle :-

What is the News?

The Ministry of Culture has planned to inaugurate new museums on Jammu and Kashmir, Gautam Buddha, Indian armour and the freedom struggle by the end of 2021.

Museum on Jammu and Kashmir(J&K):
  1. The museum on Jammu and Kashmir will capture the essence and spirit of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh as an integral part of the nation since ages.
  2. The museum elaborates this by tracing the roots of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh since prehistoric times to the present day and telling unheard stories of the region and people which have been lost in the centuries of time.
Museum on Gautam Buddha:
  1. The museum on Gautama Buddha focuses on the religious and traditional aspects of Buddhist heritage in India.
  2. The museum would have over 200 objects from the 1st Century CE to 19th Century CE, including stone and bronze sculptures, terracotta heads and costumes.
Museum on Freedom Struggle:
  1. The museum will narrate the story of the country’s freedom struggle in an interactive manner. Further, the museum will provide more emphasis on the unheard stories of people’s participation in India’s freedom movement representing contribution of all regions.
  2. Another museum will be developed which would showcase arms and armour of India through the ages.
  3. Moreover, the Ministry is also in the process of setting up a museum dedicated to freedom fighters at the Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata, called ‘Biplobi Bharat’.

4) PM Modi launches Vehicle Scrappage Policy, says it will promote a circular economy :-

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched the national vehicle scrappage policy, saying it will help phase out unfit and polluting vehicles and also promote a circular economy.

The policy will give a new identity to India’s mobility and auto sector, Modi said in a video address to the Investor Summit held to invite investment for setting up vehicle scrapping infrastructure under the Voluntary Vehicle-Fleet Modernization Programme.

We are promoting a circular economy. The aim is to develop a sustainable and environment-friendly economy, he said.

A circular economy is one where products are designed for durability, reuse and recyclability.

“This policy will play a major role in removing unfit vehicles from our roads in a scientific manner. It will modernise the vehicular population on our city roads, he said.

The prime minister said that India should work for clean, congestion free and convenient mobility in the 21st century.

The policy will play a key role in ‘Waste to Wealth’ programme, Modi said, adding it will also help in reducing pollution in our cities.

Under this policy, people who give their old vehicles for turning them into scrap, will be given a certificate by the government.

People having this certificate will not be charged any registration fee on the purchase of a new vehicle, said Mr. Modi, adding that such vehicle owners will also be entitled for some rebate on road tax.

Vehicle Scrappage Policy: Key Features

  • Fitness testing: The government plans to set up between 450-500 automated vehicle fitness testing stations across India on a PPP basis. Private vehicles – which are over 20 years old – will have to undergo fitness tests, at an estimated cost of Rs 300-400 per test.
  • Scrappage: A total of 60-70 vehicle scrapping centres will also be built, situated no further than 150-200 kilometres away from any location in India.
  • Green Tax: Vehicles that pass the automated tests will be subjected to a ‘green tax’, which will see owners shell out an additional 10 per cent to 25 per cent of road tax at the time of the renewal of the vehicle’s fitness certificate, along with re-registration fees.
  • Penalties: Those who choose to drive a vehicle that has failed the automated test will face substantial penalties, and such vehicles could also be impounded.
  • Choice of owners: The scrappage policy leaves the choice of scrapping to the owner of the vehicle, with Gadkari saying the automated tests will place emphasis on vehicle fitness, and not its age.

Implementation plan

  • The implementation of the vehicle scrappage policy in India is still some time away.
  • Initially, it will be heavy commercial vehicles that will need to undergo fitness tests starting 1 April, 2023.
  • Fitness tests will be made mandatory for all other types of vehicles from 1 June, 2024, in a phased manner.

5)Four new Wetlands added to Ramsar list:-

Four more wetlands from India get recognition from the Ramsar Secretariat as Ramsar sites.

What are Wetlands?

  • A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail.
  • The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil.

Significance of Wetlands

  • Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation.
  • They are, in fact, are a major source of water and our main supply of freshwater comes from an array of wetlands which help soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.
  • They provide many societal benefits: food and habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species; water quality improvement; flood storage; shoreline erosion control; economically beneficial natural products for human use; and opportunities for recreation, education, and research etc.

Which are the new sites added to the Ramsar List?

  • Thol and Wadhwana from Gujarat and
  • Sultanpur and Bhindawas from Haryana

With this, the number of Ramsar sites in India are 46 and the surface area covered by these sites is now 1,083,322 hectares.

(1) Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Bhindawas WLS, the largest wetland in Haryana is a human-made freshwater wetland.
  • Over 250 bird species use the sanctuary throughout the year as a resting and roosting site.
  • The site supports more than ten globally threatened species including the endangered Egyptian Vulture, Steppe Eagle, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, and Black-bellied Tern.

(2) Sultanpur National Park

  • Sultanpur NP from Haryana supports more than 220 species of resident, winter migratory and local migratory waterbirds at critical stages of their life cycles.
  • More than ten of these are globally threatened, including the critically endangered sociable lapwing, and the endangered Egyptian Vulture, Saker Falcon, Pallas’s Fish Eagle and Black-bellied Tern.

(3) Thol Lake Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Thol Lake WLS from Gujarat lies on the Central Asian Flyway and more than 320 bird species can be found here.
  • The wetland supports more 30 threatened waterbird species, such as the critically endangered White-rumped Vulture and Sociable Lapwing , and the vulnerable Sarus Crane, Common Pochard and Lesser White-fronted Goose.

(4) Wadhvana Wetland

  • Wadhvana Wetland from Gujarat is internationally important for its birdlife as it provides wintering ground to migratory waterbirds, including over 80 species that migrate on the Central Asian Flyway.
  • They include some threatened or near-threatened species such as the endangered Pallas’s fish-Eagle, the vulnerable Common Pochard, and the near-threatened Dalmatian Pelican, Grey-headed Fish-eagle and Ferruginous Duck.

6) Places in news: Ningbo Port :-

China has partially shut down the world’s third-busiest container port, the Ningbo Port, after a worker there tested positive for Covid-19.

Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan

  • This port is the busiest in the world in terms of cargo tonnage.
  • It handled 888.96 million tons of cargo in 2015.
  • The port is located in Ningbo and Zhoushan, on the coast of the East China Sea, in Zhejiang province on the southeast end of Hangzhou Bay, across which it faces the municipality of Shanghai.
  • The port is at the crossroads of the north-south inland and coastal shipping route, including canals to the important inland waterway to interior China, the Yangtze River, to the north.
  • The port consists of several ports which are Beilun (seaport), Zhenhai (estuary port), and old Ningbo harbour (inland river port).

What is the potential impact of the closure?

  • Despite the diversion of shipments to other terminals, experts are anticipating a backlog of consignments with average wait times being expected to rise.

How is it likely to affect global trade?

  • In the aftermath of Covid-19, global supply chains have remained fragile mainly on account of closures and lockdowns that affected both the manufacturing and the logistical segments of the chain.
  • This has not only resulted in a growing backlog of shipments but has also caused freight charges to go up as demand outgrew the supply.
  • Extended closure of one of the biggest terminals at the third-busiest port in the world could further exacerbate the stress in global trade.

Editorial of the Day

  1. India’s leadership in the debate on maritime security

Indian PM recently addressed  the UNSC High-Level Open Debate on “Enhancing Maritime Security: A Case For International Cooperation”, convened by India.

Highlights of the UNSC debate on Maritime Security

  • India’s leadership: As President of the UN Security Council for the month of August, India’s leadership in the debate on maritime security has strengthened its credentials as a key stakeholder in the maritime commons.
  • Ocean as a common heritage: Prime Minister Modi described the oceans as a common heritage for humankind and a lifeline for the future of the planet.
  • Culture, history, geography: In enunciating five principles, Mr. Modi linked free and open trade to India’s civilisational ethos.
  • He outlined a far-sighted vision rooted in India’s culture, history and geography.
  • SAGAR: The relevance of SAGAR (Security And Growth For All In The Region) was also reiterated.
  • Need for a common framework: The global community needs to develop a common framework to deal with contemporary challenges, including maritime disputes and natural disasters.

Importance of high seas

  • Ninety per cent of global trade is conducted on the high seas, for the simple reason that it continues to be the most cost-effective mode of transport.
  • Spread of prosperity: Freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce are key to the spread of prosperity. 
  • Critical supply chains depend on the concept of mare liberum (open seas).

Suggestions and role of India

1) Maritime dispute settlement  based on international law

  • The Prime Minister advocated the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes on the basis of international law.
  • The importance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as the legal framework governing all maritime activity needs to be emphasised.
  • India’s acceptance of the award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2014 paved the way for India and Bangladesh to put aside their maritime dispute and forge even closer ties.
  • In 2016, China summarily rejected the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in favour of the Philippines.
  • The neo-colonial concept of mare clausum (closed seas) in the South China Sea is anathema to the future of the global economy.

2) Deling with natural disasters and maritime threats

  • Natural disasters and maritime threats posed by non-state actors have grown exponentially.
  • The global community needs to rally together to deal effectively with the ravages of cyclones, tsunami and maritime pollution.
  • First responder: India’s role as ‘first responder’ in the Indian Ocean, whether in thwarting piracy or providing relief after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, is well-documented.
  • The Indian Coast Guard’s operational reach and capability has vastly improved in dealing with environmental hazards and piracy.
  • White shipping agreements: India now has white shipping agreements with several countries.
  • Cooperation: The Indian Navy’s state-of-the-art Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) based in Gurugram hosts officers from the United States, Japan, France, Australia and the United Kingdom.
  • Training:The Indian Navy regularly offers a large number of training slots to friendly countries.

3) Environmental concerns

  • The oceans remain our lifeline.
  • Yet, they have been overwhelmed by plastic waste which chokes all forms of marine life.

4) Connectivity and infrastructure

  • Connectivity: The development of connectivity and infrastructure are also a major priority.
  • There are heightened concerns today over China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Openness and transparency India stands for openness and transparency in the execution of projects, based on local priorities, with in-built fiscal viability and environmental sustainability.
  • Blue Dot Network: The U.S., Japan and Australia are also promoting better standards for global infrastructure through the Blue Dot Network.

Conclusion

India’s natural interests stretch across both the Indian and Pacific Oceans as reflected in its inclusive Indo-Pacific vision. No doubt, India’s initiative will further the prospects for a stable and enduring maritime environment.

Editorial 02 : Growth needs steps beyond reforms

  • e reversed, i.e. the poverty rate may have increased.

Way forward

  • Growth requires more than reforms. Reforms are, in the words of economists, only a necessary condition. It is not sufficient.
  • Need to increase investment: It is the decline in investment rate of nearly five percentage points since 2010-11 that has led to the progressive decline of the growth rate.
  • Reforms supplemented by a careful nurturing of the investment climate are needed to spur growth again.
  • Reform agenda must continue: First of all, there is a need to move in the same direction in which we have been moving in the past three decades.
  • Policymakers should identify the sectors which need reforms in terms of creating a competitive environment and improving the performance efficiency.
  • From this angle, we need to take a relook at the financial system, power sector and governance. Centre and States must be joint partners in this effort.
  • Second, in terms of government performance, there should be increased focus on social sectors such as health and education.

Conclusion

Growth and equity must go together. They must not be posed as opposing considerations. They are truly interdependent. It is only in an environment of high growth, equity can be pushed aggressively.

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